Since 2019, regional co-operation Edeka Minden-Hannover has enabled customers in a growing number of stores to shop with Easy Shopper from provider Pentland Firth. To date, the company has equipped 166 outlets with the intelligent shopping trolleys, including 70 company-owned stores and 96 stores run by independent retailers. The Retail Optimiser visited two retail outlets, Marktkauf Espelkamp and Marktkauf Lübbecke, where it was able to speak to both store managers and customers who were using the Easy Shopper at the time of the visit.
According to Edeka Minden-Hannover’s rollout plan, 173 stores will be offering the service by the end of the year. The retailer is also planning to equip more stores with the service in the coming years. According to the manufacturer, this is the world’s largest project with this type of technology, with a total of 6,400 systems installed. So far, however, it is also the only one for the Easy Shopper. The technology provider told The Retail Optimiser that it is working hard to launch pilot projects abroad in the coming months.
Marktkauf Espelkamp has a sales area of 6,500 square metres, including a special area for beverages, and offers its customers a range of around 60,000 items. The premium version of the Easy Shopper has been in use at this store since October 2019. It was the third location where Edeka Minden-Hannover installed the new type of shopping trolleys. The second-generation carts in operation here, have been equipped with several improvements. For example, they provide a larger storage area for goods and have an optimised loading technology. A total of 92 systems are available to customers at Marktkauf Espelkamp. They park in a total of five charging stations, each of which can accommodate 18 Easy Shoppers. Two of the stations are located inside the store, three others in the car park. The boxes have charging rails on the floor, which are used to charge the shopping trolley battery during rest periods.
Pioneer of the Easy Shopper
Store manager Karl Kordes explained to Retail Optimiser that preparations and construction work took around six months. The actual technical installation of the systems required just a few days. All employees had been carefully trained. They had no reservations whatsoever about using the new technology. On the contrary, emphasises Karl Kordes, they were looking forward to the systems. There were no cuts in personnel. “Not the number of employees, but their workload has been reduced,” he emphasises. He is primarily concerned with service and freshness. Staff can focus more on looking after customers and maintaining stock levels.
“Our customers have got on well with the new technology from day one,” reports Kordes, emphasising that all age groups use the Easy Shopper. “Older people in particular prefer shopping with the intelligent shopping trolley,” he says. This offers many practical advantages. Customers don’t have to load and unload the goods several times. They can sort the products into shopping bags or folding boxes immediately after scanning. As the Easy Shopper-Premium is open at the sides, customers can push their shopping bags or baskets directly into the boot of their car.
Customers are guided through the store
While shopping, the intelligent trolley with its large touchscreen helps customers to select products. In conjunction with the Easy Shopper app, they can load their shopping list and work through it in the order of the store layout. The system navigates the shopper to the correct shelf location if required.
After scanning an item, customers immediately see the correct price on the display. In addition, the subtotal is displayed so that the total amount always remains transparent. At the bottom of the screen, the store can draw attention to special offers or matching complementary items. At checkout, Easy Shopper customers pay directly in the app or at a specially set up Easy Shopper checkout.
Customer loyalty grows
Karl Kordes is convinced that these features will help to increase customer loyalty to his store. “Easy Shopper is primarily used for weekly shopping”, says the store manager. According to him, the average receipt is generally higher than for traditional shopping. On busy days, such as Thursdays, when many Edeka stores issue a voucher for 5 EUR for purchases of 75 EUR or more, customers often wait for Easy Shoppers to become available. “On these days, the proportion of purchases made with the Easy Shopper is up to 43 per cent,” explains Karl Kordes and is pleased that many random shoppers, who previously only visited the store occasionally, have now become regular customers.
To minimise possible inventory discrepancies, there are various technical mechanisms supported by AI that are used to prevent theft and misuse. For example, products placed in the shopping trolley are compared with the scanned goods using built-in scales and a camera.
Another version of the Easy Shopper solution is used by Marktkauf in Lübbecke. Here, Edeka Minden-Hannover opted for the new Easy Shopper-Light version. Here, the touchscreen is equipped with an integrated scanner. The system is attached to the handle of a traditional shopping trolley, which otherwise has no special fittings. It is not charged via a charging rail, but via a special plug on the side of the device. This is done overnight. The battery charge then lasts for up to two days of operation.
Experience with the `light´ version
The Marktkauf in Lübbecke had been reopened in December 2022 after the previous location was closed. The store offers around 30,000 items on 2,400 square metres. There is also a beverages and specialist store around 500 metres away with a further 1,400 square metres of retail space. At the new location, 20 of the intelligent shopping trolleys were implemented for the opening. Shortly afterwards, the number of systems was increased to 30.
Store manager Donjet Morina told The Retail Optimiser that his store was only the second location to pilot the new Light version. Easy Shopper Light has been available since the end of 2022. Since then, the company experienced a learning curve and further optimised the system. For example, the charging mechanism has been improved. Initially, there were also occasional system failures in cold weather, which no longer occur. Customers can also leave the Easy Shoppers in the car park. Staff then take them back to the charging station in the building.
Growing share of sales
Donjet Morina also confirms that his employees find working with the intelligent shopping trolleys pleasurable. They were able to familiarise themselves with the Easy Shopper at other locations. Customers have also accepted the system. “The trolley has been well received,” assures the store manager. “Easy Shopper customers now account for 17 per cent of our store’s sales – and the proportion is rising steadily,” adds Donjet Morina.
The store in Lübbecke also offers two self-checkout systems from NCR for customers with smaller shopping baskets, which are equipped with cash machines from Glory. Easy Shopper customers can also pay here. In this zone, a barrier clears the way when the paid receipt has been scanned.
Product team supports stores
Edeka Minden-Hannover has put together a special team for the Easy Shopper rollout, which, among other things, is supporting the employees in the stores during the introduction phase. The team is working closely with technology provider Pentland Firth to further develop the systems.
The decision as to whether the premium or `light´ version of Easy Shopper is deployed in a store is made by the company depending on location. No special structural measures are required for the ´light´ system. Implementation in the store can be much faster and only takes a few weeks. The company also enables stores to mix both systems.
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All Photos: The Retail Optimiser / Joachim Pinhammer
Many use Easy Shopper every time they shop
The Retail Optimiser was also able to speak directly with customers during its store visits. These were both experienced users and those who were shopping with the Easy Shopper for the first time. All of them stated that they were getting on well with the device. Many of the respondents reported that they now only shop with the Easy Shopper. Most of the users of the premium systems had equipped them with their own folding boxes or special reusable shopping bags with Easy Shopper print. These were handed out free of charge in stores at launch of the systems.
All customers emphasised that the main reason they liked shopping with the Easy Shopper was that they did not have to pack and repack the goods several times. They could sort them systematically into bags or boxes and then load them directly into the car boot. Some older customers found it helpful that the Premium Shopper had no side walls. The heavy shopping bag no longer had to be lifted but could be pushed directly into the boot. One customer in Lübbecke, who had experienced the Premium version when shopping in another store, missed this feature in his Easy Shopper Light.
Store Manager app supports store managers and employees
During its visit, The Retail Optimiser did not observe any customers who needed help when shopping with the Easy Shopper. In this case, the customer can call an employee via the system at any time. The employee receives a message via the Store Manager app. The app is also used by store managers and employees for maintenance and user management purposes. Thanks to automation, the app saves time and costs and, according to the provider, is a unique selling point.
Pentland Firth is a software company based in Munich. It developed the Easy Shopper system in 2015 under the name Whiz-Cart. The technology provider has been working with regional company Edeka Minden-Hannover since 2017.
The video with English subtitles explains how the Easy Shopper works. (Video: Pentland Firth)